SEATTLE -- The Seahawks began Sunday with a chance to assume control of the NFC West. A win over the division-leading Los Angeles Rams would have put Seattle in the driver's seat with two regular-season games remaining.
The Seahawks didn't just waste that chance. They did so with an epically and shockingly disastrous performance, the likes of which they've never experienced in the Pete Carroll era.
You don't see the Seahawks getting dominated as resoundingly as they did en route to a 42-7 loss at CenturyLink Field, their most lopsided defeat since Carroll took over the head-coaching role in 2010. It signals a changing of the NFC West guard, as the Seahawks (8-6) -- now trailing the Rams (10-4) by two games -- can pretty much wave goodbye to their chances of repeating as division champions. Their most realistic shot at making the playoffs for the sixth straight season will be to sneak in as a wild-card team.
They have two winnable games left, playing the Cowboys in Dallas next week, before closing out the regular season at home versus the Arizona Cardinals. But with the way they played Sunday, can you really assume anything?
"That was really a dismal performance by us," Carroll said.
Said wide receiver Doug Baldwin: "It was an embarrassing game, a rough game for us. Not to take anything away from the Rams. It's a great team over there that we just played, obviously, but that wasn't the style of football that we like to play."
Nothing went right for the Seahawks in this game. They figured to have a narrow margin for error with a banged-up defense facing one of the NFL's top offenses. They exceeded that margin right away.
The Seahawks turned the ball over twice in the first half, on fumbles by Tanner McEvoy and Russell Wilson. They allowed several long punt returns, including one that set up an easy Rams touchdown. Their defense had as poor of a tackling performance as it has had in recent memory. When the Seahawks weren't whiffing on Todd Gurley II, the Rams running back was blowing by them entirely en route to 152 yards on 21 carries, most notably on a 57-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
Wilson was sacked seven times, tying a career high. He was off his game even when he wasn't being pressured. Seattle's only touchdown came late in the third quarter, when he hit Luke Willson from 26 yards out. Wilson finished 14 of 30 passing for 142 yards -- not exactly an MVP-worthy performance.
Carroll said it was hard to assess any one individual's performance because of how poorly things went across the board.
"They've been playing terrific football all year long," Carroll said of the Rams. "This was an opportunity for us to match up for first place and they obviously were on it and we weren't."
This was a tough matchup for the Seahawks, to be sure. Their defense was already without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, who were still in the lineup when the Seahawks beat the Rams 16-10 in the season's first meeting on Oct. 8. Sunday's rematch was made even tougher with one starting linebacker (K.J. Wright) inactive and another (Bobby Wagner) gutting it out on a bad hamstring.
Still, no one could have seen a drubbing like this coming.
The Seahawks allowed 40 points in a game for the first time since 2010. When they trailed 34-0 at halftime, it marked their largest home deficit since a Week 9 loss to the New York Giants in 2010, a game that featured starter Charlie Whitehurst under center and was previously Seattle's most lopsided loss under Carroll.
Yep, it was that bad for the Seahawks on Sunday.
The only intrigue left by halftime was (A) where this defeat would rank among the worst under Carroll and (B) how long Seattle would keep its starters in the game.
Wagner was pulled late in the third quarter, while the rest of Seattle's defense remained in the game well beyond that. Wilson wasn't replaced by Austin Davis until the Seahawks' final possession. Carroll regretted not pulling Wilson sooner given how out of hand this game got for Seattle.